Poor Relations by George Goodwin Kilburne (Walker Art Gallery)

The BLFC Then and Now

Samantha
May
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Marketing Executive

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Founded in 1982 at San Jose State University in California, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to compose opening sentences to the worst of all possible novels. 

The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the misbegotten brainchild of Professor Scott Rice. Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. Best known for The Last Days of Pompeii, his novel Paul Clifford began with the famous opener that has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle, Snoopy.

The Panel of Undistinguished Judges sorting the thousands of entries received by post card, circa 1984. 

The Panel of Undistinguished Judges

Later, Rice was to discover that the line had been around for donkey’s years before Lytton decided to have fun with it but the damage had been done.  The BLFC had calumniated Lytton’s memory and rendered his name synonymous with bad writing, an author more widely read in his time than Charles Dickens.

Throughout the years the BLFC has been covered by all the major American television networks, and for decades the winners continued to be announced by both national and international media. 

Since retiring in 2014 the contest continues to be a labor of love for Dr. Rice. He collects entries all the livelong year, and other than the Panel of Undistinguished Judges (who chime in each July), the only other member of Team BLFC is his daughter EJ, who maintains the website (poorly) in her spare time. 

Contact Us

For contest rules and information, as well as our submission form, see Rules & Submissions.

For general contest queries, you'll find Scott here. If you have a question or issue about the website (or to report typos she's surely missed), you'll find EJ here

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Scott and EJ in The Before Times

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